Why are two kisses a greeting in Spain and not in other countries?

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WHY are two kisses a greeting in Spain and not in other countries? Since ancient times, there are many greetings that have spread between different cultures, from those that do not need physical contact to two kisses, the hug or the handshake, which are some of the most common.

Specifically, in Spain, the custom of greeting each other with two kisses is deeply rooted, one of the most intimate greetings, according to the affable and easy-going character of Spaniards, even with strangers. This does not happen in other countries, where the handshake is more common, although in France or in other European nations two kisses are also usually given. On the other hand, in countries like Japan, this gesture of affection can be uncomfortable and also disrespectful.

The two kisses on the cheek are simply a custom or tradition in Spain that dates back to Roman times, which had three versions of the kiss, according to National Geographic:

Osculum: kiss on the cheek, a typical gesture between friends.
Basium: is the kiss on the lips, which is for the husband or wife.
Suavem: it is the kiss between lovers.

It is the kiss on the cheek that is used to greet, even strangers. The tradition was implanted with Christianity, which incorporated this gesture and was used in religious ceremonies. In fact, Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, recommended to his faithful that they greet “with a sacred kiss”.

Among other European countries that also have the kiss as a greeting is the Netherlands, which gives up to three kisses on the cheeks as a greeting, as in some areas of Russia. Also in Denmark, where the kiss is accompanied by a hug.

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Written by

Diane Burke

Diane is from Limerick, Ireland and has previously lived in Seville. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism and Public Relations she has a keen interest in digital media. As well as her passion for news, she enjoys learning about human psychology, practising pilates and has a soft spot for tapas!

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